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From Greenville to Guangzhou

By Christine Esposito, Associate Editor | March 14, 2016

South Carolina start-up BabyBlossom has big plans for its nontoxic baby products China.

Some entrepreneurs begin by selling their wares at the local farmers market or mom and pop shop in the neighborhood—all the while dreaming big about larger box stores and international fanfare. But that’s not the path taken by South Carolina-based business executive and entrepreneur Vivian Wong. Instead, Wong has her sights set on China as the debut market for BabyBlossom, a new line of non-toxic, baby-safe products that range from infant formula to cleaning and personal care products.
Wong was inspired to create the line following the tragic contaminated milk scandal in 2008 that sickened nearly 300,000 babies.  
“It really resonated with her; she’s a mother and has grandchildren. She could see herself in that situation,” said BabyBlossom CEO Matthew Van Patton.
Wong wanted Chinese parents to experience what Americans often take for granted: “to buy products and not think about it,” Van Patton said.
In January, BabyBlossom exhibited the Hong Kong Baby Products Fair to introduce its US-made nutrition, personal care and home care products to hundreds of vendors and distributors.
According to Van Patton, the response was tremendous, and BabyBlossom is now on the verge making its non-toxic, baby-safe products available to Chinese families.
BabyBlossom has nine products, formula, diaper rash cream, foaming hand sanitizer, baby lotion, shampoo/body wash, all-purpose surface cleaner, and a free and clear laundry detergent.
All of the products are made by contract manufacturers in the US and Canada; BabyBlossom tapped companies in Greenville, SC for collateral materials.
In a recent phone interview, Van Patton told Happi that Wong was in Hong Kong hammering out final details ahead of the rollout, such as making decisions about e-comm platforms and distribution. Wong has the acumen and connections to make headway. A real estate investor and developer for 34 years, Wong formed Pacific Gateway Capital, LLC, a company specializing in US/China trade in 2001. She is also the founder of Rebound Health International, a nutraceutical company, owned a restaurant chain for more than 35 years and has served as a member on the advisory boards at Bank of America and Summit Bank.
BabyBlossom’s competition in China will vary based on the product category. For instance, companies like MeadJohnson and Abbot sell formula in the country and venerable Johnson & Johnson baby care has been available there since 1992.
When it comes to personal care, e-commerce has introduced Chinese consumers to more options than ever before.
“There are more products, but they don’t have the breadth, depth and range that we would expect in Whole Foods,” Van Patton said.
According to a Euromonitor International, baby- and child-specific products registered current value growth of 6% in 2014, a similar rate of growth to what was recorded in the category in 2013. The market research firm attributed the gain to strong demand among parents who are willing to invest in premium products perceived to be of higher quality that offer benefits that can enhance their child’s wellbeing.
In addition, BabyBlossom is entering the Chinese marketplace following the government’s decision to abandon its one-child-per family policy.
While BabyBlossom is looking to win over customers with a boutique feel and safe and trusted formulations, it is also paying close attention to value.
“The Chinese are very aware of shopping for value per ounce,” Van Patton said.  “We didn’t want the product to only be affordable to the affluent. We want middle class China to purchase it and not be burdened.”